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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  May 9, 2012 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT

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( harpsichord music ) man: with the advantages of the example and instruction which you could have in europe, you would be a valuable acquisition to the art, and one of theirst painters in the world, provided you could receive these aids before it is t late in life, and before your manner and taste were corrupted or fixed by working in your little way at boston.
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narrator: an impressive letter to a young painter and from the distinguished sir joshua reynolds. could he be right? ( harpsichord continues ) john singleton copley loved his country, but he wanted the richer artistic influences of the old world. besides, talk of revolution was everywhere. political contests, he felt, were neither pleasing to an artist nor advantageous to art itself. in 1774, copley left; it would make him a better painter, he thought. sad for him,
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sad for america: he never returned to his home. at 34, john singleton copley was already one of the best and most popular painters in the american colonies. the young american artist john trumbull said of him, "an elegant-looking man dressed in fine maroon cloth with gold buttons, this dazzling to my unpracticed eye, but his painting, the first i'd ever seen deserving the name, riveted--absorbed my attention and renewed my desires to enter upon such a pursuit." copley had more work than he could do. early in his career, he mastered the popular rococo style: rich texture of laces and lush fabrics, empty faces.
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but like many pre-revolutionary americans, copley could not suppress his belief in individual and personal expression. ( drumbeats ) taxation without representation: copley's father-in-law, an english merchant, was importing tea to america. copley felt he could not speak out against his family, nor could he defend them. seeking his artistic heritage, he sailed for europe. it wasn't long before he became part of that heritage, a forerunner in the great romantic movement. still, the longer his self-imposed exile in england, the greater his loneliness. his children were his models.
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the commissions continued. but his greatest masterpieces were painted while memory and imagination were fresh. ( drumbeats, lively trumpet notes ) in his isolation in england, copley worked harder to be america's first great painter. "poor america," he wrote, "yet certain i am
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she will finally emerge from her present calamity and become a mighty empire. and it is a pleasing reflection that i shall stand amongst the first of the artists that shall have led the country to the knowledge and cultivation of the fine arts."
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narrator: ...yet george catlin had a grander dream: he was an artist in search of a cause. ( native chanting ) 1824: an indian delegation on its way to washington visited philadelphia. daled by their colors, george catlin wrote, "after they took their leave, i was ft to reflect. the history and customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustration, are themes worthy of the lifetime of one man. and nothing, short of the loss of my life, shall prevent me from visiting their country, and becoming their historian."
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( crows cawing ) 1830: catlin became the first american artist to document indian life. ( native chanting ) "clear the way; in a sacred manner i come. the earth is mine." ( birds chirping )
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some years later, the artist wrote, "i love a people who have always made me welcome to the best they had; who are honest without laws, who have no jails, no poorhouse. and , how i love a people who don't live for the love of money." they trusted catlin. he was privileged to paint rituals which no white man had ever seen before: the steam baths of the mandan; sacred dancing; ( men chanting ) ( horse whinnying ) the sacrifice;
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tragedy. ( fire crackling ) to promote the indian cause, catlin dreamed of seeing his paintings in a national museum.
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finding neither support nor recognition in america, catlin took s family, several indians, and his collection to europe. ( wind howling ) despite the great success of the indian exhibits, the european tour brought catlin great misfortune. burdened with debts and ill health, he sold his collection for pennies. resilient, bold, and determined, catlin returned to the life he most cherished: painting the indians of the americas. "i take an incredible pleasure in roaming through nature's trackless wild, and selecting my models where i am free and unshackled by the killing restraints of society." ( native man chanting )
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( piano music ) narrator: although she lived most of her adult life in france, mary cassatt was steadfastly american. she painted the world she knew best, a world of quiet elegance and feminine tradition.
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she painted her subjects boldly and truthfully with remarkable discipline and intelligence. in the 1870s, mary cassatt discovered the work of edgar degas. she later wrote, "it changed my life.
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i saw art then as i wanted to see it." she painted her subjects honestly, as they were. the beauty of her finest work combines mastery of the human figure with superb composition.
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her pictures were tightly structured, composed almost abstractly. cassatt painted fields of color, patterns on an increasingly flattened picturplane. somber piano music
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her study of japanese woodcuts inspired a series of etchings. in them, she found the sureness of line which she had worked so long to acquire. her themes were fragile; yet her energy and force are felt in the brilliant play of her colors and the dynamic precision of her design.
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mary cassatt was a master. her vibrant works resound with life. ( banjo music )
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salesman: those who wish for a leness at a reasonable price areinvit. persons wishin' a flat picture can have a likeness without shade or shadow at 1/4 price. narrator: william prior was but one of many self-appointed painters to the new republic. some, like him, were prosperous and skilled-- painters by profession, following the ancient tradition of the limner.
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others were just men and women who could turn a capable hand to many different tasks: village artisans who were also farmers, housewives, schoolteachers, carpenters, jacks-of-all-trade; or itinerants-- travelers infected with the restless exuberant spirit of early america. they would paint for lodging and a meal. many remain unknown. all were academically untrained but their eyes were sharp. james bard spent a lifetime painting steamboats in new york. shipbuilders admired his accuracy, claiming they could lay down the lines of a vessel
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from one of his paintings. ( lively banjo music ) in 1837, a visitor to america was struck by the manner in which the imaginative talent of the people had thrown itself forth into painting. the country seemed to swarm with painters, and they left a pictorial diary of our past: ( choppy banjo music )
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salesman: side views and profiles of children at reduced prices. one hour sittin', $2.92 includin' frame and glass.
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fancy portraits includin' pets and other details, $25.00. narrator: ralph waldo emerson expressed the spirit of many of these naive painters when he wrote, "i embrace the common; i explore and sit at the feet of the familiar. give me insight into today and you may have t antique and future worlds." still others, poets and painters alike, saw visions of a future world in america.
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"i see a thousand kingdoms raised, cities and men, numerous as sand upon the ocean shore. the ohio then shall glide by many a town of note, and where the mississippi stamy forest shaded now runs weeping on, cities shall grow, and states, not less in fame than greece and rome." ( music )
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( music ) narrator: the east buiing of the national gallery of art in washingto d.c.-- built to relieve the heavily- burdened facilities of the original gallery, to house temporary exhibitions, and to serve as a center for advanced study in the visual arts. within these walls, visitors to our nation's capital are drawn in to a very special place where monumental accomplishments of modern masters await discovery.
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built on a trapezoidal plot of land adjoining the original gallery, the east building is of a unique and radical design, utilizing triangular shapes with large interior spaces. it was a collaborative effort spanning more than ten years. director j. carter brown worked closely with architect i. m. pei in its development. seven works of art were commissioned it was agreed that a specific piece was needed to animate the unbroken expanse of wall in the central courtyard. but the artist would have to have a capacity for monumental concepts, with a sense of color and scale appropriate to the site. a unanimous choice was spanish artist joan miro.
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born in the catalan city of barcelona in 1893, miro has remained close to the land and its people. but as a young man in paris, he joined th friends like max ernst and jean arp in the emerging surrealist movement of the 1920s. in his painting "the farm," miro's characteristic symbols and themes began to appear: serpentine shapes, checkerboard patterns, infinite space represented by the moon or a star. in 1922, he painted "the farmer's wife," the ancestress of countless female symbols that also became a continuing motif in miro's art. in 1924, his art broke free of gravitational constrats in the surrealistic world of "harlequin's carnival." over the years, he developed his own personal symbolism,
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and in the 1950s, the scale of his art grew with such works as a mural at harrd university and "the wall ofhe sun" for unesco in pas. as his work grew in size, miro continued what he termed "a process of simplification." he stated, "little by little, i have managed to reach a point at which i use no more than a small number of forms and colors." this process found a culminating expression in his eightoot-high painting "femme," the maquette for the tial gallery's tapestry. miro entered the project with much enthusiasm, stating, "i'll go into this and fight it through with everything i have." over many months, the tapestry took shape in his imagination. finally, in 1976 it was set down rapidly as a maquette. in the ancient catalan city of tarragona, joan miro meets with young master weaver josep royo
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to discuss the transformation of his painting into a 10-meter-high tapestry. studying a photograph of the maquette, they consider how best to translate miro's art into a heavily- textured weaving, which would capture the spirit of his concept. royo has an enormous task before him. in this converted flour mill in tarragona, many months of preparation are needed before the weaving itself can begin. nearly four miles of heavy cotton line is measured, stretched and chained for use as the tapestry's vertical warp. royo has developed a unique loom for weaving large tapestries. it has been built to accommodate the 20-foot width and the 420-warp threads which st be accurately spaced and held in line.
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after all the warps have been laid out, each more than 50 feet in length, they are wound slo onto a huge drum before finally being transferred to a massive overhead roller and stretched tight. on a cold february morning in 1977, the loom is ready for the weaving process to begin. the wool for the weft was imported from new zealand, in the heart of catalonia, and tested for durability and resistanceo fading. weaving from the bottom up and meter segments, the completed seion is pulled below the working bridge onto the floor, enabling the finished portion to be viewed
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as the work progresses. in march, miro visits his young colleague's studio. he inspects the progress, makes suggestions, and gives his approval. royo works with a team of fellow weavers whom he has carefully trained to accomplish this imposing tas royo's revolutnary conce allows weaving to be performed from either side using multiple groups of yarn twisted together and passed over varying numbers of warps through the months of april and may, meter by meter the forms of the tapestry gradually begito emerge.
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miro has said of his approach to art, "things come to me slowly. my vocabulary of formsas not been the discovery of a day. it took shape almost spite of myself. in this way, ty ripen in my spirit." into the steamy month of august, the spirit of "femme" grows until the figure is complete. now, with only a few inches of background remaining, royo welcomes miro to his studio once more to witness the final steps of an eight-month process. royo says, "working together, we have become so closely attuned
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that i can almost read his min i take direction as much from an expression or gesture as from words or sketches. working with miro has forced me to make a constant effort to do better, an effort from which i have benefited in many respects." for these two catalan artists, it has been a fulfilling experience. what was born in the imagination of one artist has been translated and skillfully brought into being by another. it has been more than five years since miro accepted this project. the end is now in sight, but first "femme" must be prepared for her trip.
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hundreds of mothballs are scattered for protection before the tapestry is cut from the loom, covered, rolled and packed for shipment. the finished tapestry roll is 20 feet long, weighing well over a ton, and the task of moving is not a simple one. a window has to be enlarged to accommodate the passage of this huge parcel from royo's studio. ( muffled comments, crane engine rumbling ) the people of tarragona watch
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as "femme" is cautiously lowered onto the waiting truck to begin a long voyage across the atlantic. first she must travel to barcelona to be crated, before passage by ship to her home in america. royo follows "femme" to washington, d.c., to supervise the installation on the south wall of the east building's central court. there are now many new problems to overcome. the tolerances are extremely close, demanding precise measurement, careful planning and a team effort. the huge roll barely fits into this confined space. the workers must unroll it evenly and accurately.
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bolts have been embedded deep into the structural wall, behind the marble facing, to support this massive piece when it slides into place. ( muffled comments ) carefully, royo grooms "femme," as the crew gradually hoistser upwd over the last few yards of a long journey. ( music ) this is the realization of many dreams,
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uly a work of collaboration; the fulfillment of a vision shared by the architect and the national gallery, supported by generous patrons, brought to fruition by joan miro and josep royo. on this day, those drms and efforts are reaching a successful conclusion. "femme" is at home. brown: "it's everything we hoped." today, suspended 42 feet above the museum floor,
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"femme" is fulfilling her intended role. she stands tall, as the 76-foot mobile by miro's close friend alexander calder slowly circles by. she is in the company of the works of other modern masters such as henry moore and jean arp, of david smith, noguchi, caro, rosati and motherwell. but she stands alone at the head of the south wall as a unifying force and vital core of color in the east building of the national gallery of art.
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( music )
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( music ) narrator: thomas moran embarked on his first trip to the west in 1871. the united states at the time was still recovering from the ravages of the civil war. americans turned with hope to the western frontier. by painting the pristine grandeur of these remote places, moran enabled 19th-century americans to visualize
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a magnificent landscape most would never see. his paintings transformed their perceptions of the west. from 1867 to 1879, the united states government sponsored four western expeditions, now known as "the great surveys." of all the ais who accompanied them, none is more associated with the surveys than thomas moran. the watercolors he brought back from wyoming, the first color images of yellowstone, played a key role in the creation of the national parks system.
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yellowstone had long been familiar to american indians, mountainmen, traders and travelers. legendary, seemingly unbelievable stories made their way east. the canyon was said to be a "fearful chasm," the river a "frightful torrent," the sulfur springs wre "diabolical," the place where "hell bubbled up." while the eruption of old faithful was said to be "the most magnificent sight ever witnessed." in 1870, a group of private citizens from montana led by henry washburn, had ventured into yellowstone to see if these stories were true. an account of their experiences appeared in scribner's monthly thllowing ng. the editors ha hired younmoran to turn field sketches made by amateur artists in the party
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into publishable illustrations. this commission introduced moran to a landscape he had not yet seen, and changed the course of his career. his interest piqued, moran arranged to join an upcoming expedition to yellowstone led by ferdinand hayden, a geologist who had lobbied congress for funding. moran borrowed $500 from the publisher of ribner's, using his painting "children of the mountain" as collateral. he obtained an additnal $500 and a letter of introduction from jay cooke, a prominent philadelphia financier and a principal investor in the northern pacific railroad. in july of 1871, moran traveled by train to utah, where just two years earlier, the union pacific and thecel pd to form the first transcontinental railway.
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he joined hayden's party in montana. they proceeded to fort ellis and soon entered the fabled region of yellowstone. moran worked closely with the expedition photographer, william henry jackson. together they selected the most impressive views. moran made drawings and watercolor sketches, blocking in forms d contours, quickly noting the colors of the terrain and the sulfurous deposits for which yellowstone is named. back in newark, new jersey, moran began what he termed his "big picture,"
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"the grand canyon of the yellowstone." for moran, the spiritual, natural and aesthetic realms should blend to create a great impression. to that end, he combined different points of view into one dramatic panorama. moran explained, the precipitous rocks on the right were really at my back when i stood at that point. yet in their present position, they are strictly true to pictorial nature. my aim was to bring before the public the character of that region. narrator: reporting to congress, hayden suggested that the geyser region of yellowstone be set apart as a national park. congressman william kelly of pennsylvania also promoted the legislation, no doubt eager to please jay cooke, a prominent constituent.
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cookunderstood the economic benefits for his northepacific raild the senate debated the oposed bill. man: "i have grave doub about the propriety of passing this bill-- why settlers should be excld for a public park? persons would go and settle and cultivate the ground." ( various voices ) "you cannot cultivate that kind of ground." "but if it cannot be occupied and cultivated, why should we make a park of it?" "here is a region of country away up in the rocky mountains where there are the most wonderful geysers on the face of the earth. it is a very proper bill to pass, and now is the time to enact it." narrator: hayden arranged for members of the house and senate to see photographs by william henry jackson and sketches by moran.
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jackson recalled, it was his wonderful coloring in pictures of canyons and hot springs that made the convincing argument for their preservation. narrat: moran's paintings dispelled any remaining disbelief about the trscendent wonders of yellowstone and provided congressmen with a glimpse of this place none of them had seen. congress passed the bill in the winter of 1872, and in early march, president ulysses s. grant signed it into law. yellowstone officially became the first national park of the united states of america. the significance of preserving this vast and remote tract of land was profound. the nation, not yet a century old, was still seeking its own cultural and national identity. the natural wonders and unspled grandeur
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of the american landscape were now promoted as the country's unique heritage. the new york herald wrot "their beauty, their splendor, their extraordinary and sometimes terrible manifestations of nature form a series of attractions possessed by no other nation." three months later, moran's "the grand canyon of the yellowstone" was bought by the federal government for $10,000. the painting was hung in the u.s. capitol, a triumph for moran. soon after, he began signing his work with the monogram "t.y.m." for thomas "yellowsto" moran.
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yellowstone remained a source of inspiration throughout moran's career. in 1892, the artist returned to the park to create new paintings of its wonders. by this time, yellowstone was a popular tourist attraction. the idea of the national park, suggested two decades before, had been fully realized. moran's depictions of yellowstone left a permanent mark on the american consciousness, transforming the public perception of the west fr a frightful land of mystery into a patriotic symbol of the beauty and promise of america. ( music )
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